Saturday, April 13, 2013

10 Best Episodes of Justice League

In a YouTube video I named Justice League/Justice League Unlimited as the greatest superhero cartoon of all time.  The entire series was just released on Netflix instant so I getting through a majority of the show.  Had a difficult time limiting myself to only ten episodes, I was working from a list of 32 episodes I considered to be perfect (that is more episodes than most superhero cartoons have).  So here is my fairly subjective list, but you really can pick out any of episode of this show as a classic.

10. Destroyer
While the preceding episode Alive! may be a more consistent episode (and one of the best villain centric stories I have ever seen) this season finale has some nice touches that leaves an impact.  Not the best of the show, but still a great send off.  Lex Luthor, who in my opinion had become the star of the show, claiming to be "overqualified" for a level ten intellect was one of the character's best moments.  And of course this episode is remembered for Superman's "world made of cardboard speech" before he almost destroys Darkseid.  After his solo cartoon and four episodes of Justice League we get to see how powerful the Man of Steel is.

9. For the Man Who Has Everything
Audiences fascination with superheroes is that of wish fulfillment.  We see Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman as who we want to be.  But stories like this really show how broken and incomplete they really are.  Superman's fantasy is not one he is ever going to allow himself to have.  Batman's fantasy (simply his father fighting back against his killer) is not one that is possible.  These fully realized characters have tragic depths that when explored properly make us realize how real these costumed fantasy figures are.

8. Flash and Substance
The characterization on this show is incredible, everybody got their chance to shine and the cast had several break out characters.  The big break out character for me was The Flash.  His lighthearted and fun-loving nature really perfected the balance of the team and as other episodes point out: he is the heart and conscience of the League.  This episode is a nod to Flash's rogue's gallery and home of Central City.  Seeing the unique way in which Flash deals with his villains (literally just talking down and being a friend to Trickster) and fame is really different from the solo heroes.  I had not read many Flash comics, but this episode made me wish Bruce Timm produced a Flash cartoon.  Also this episode is fun because of the respect Batman gives his teammate.  It is rare to see Batman impressed with someone else.

Special mention to The Great Brain Robbery, the other great Flash episode where he and Lex Luthor switch bodies (a nod to Michael Rosenbaum's two big DC roles).  Hilarity definitely ensues.

7. Once and Future Thing Part II
The first part is a fun nod to DC's western heroes, but the stakes and nods to continuity of Part II stands out as one of the series' best adventures.  Batman and Green Lantern in the Batman Beyond future provides a lot of great comedy (namely with the great dialogue that comes from three Batmans).  This is a great character development episode for Green Lantern who struggles with finding his son from an ex-girlfriend.  A lot of fun with Static ("60 is the new 40") and Hal Jordan's surprise cameo.

Batman Beyond was such a great DCAU creation and it was great to see Terry McGinnis again.  Epilogue almost made the list (in fact I am really surprised that it didn't).

6. Clash
Superman's character development in Unlimited was perfect.  The way Luthor could push his buttons and Batman came to doubt him brought new levels to the Man of Steel.  Casting the legendary Captain Marvel as a more idealistic foil to Superman is perfect.  Their fight is perfectly choreographed and Marvel telling off the League is 

5. Hereafter
A lot of my favorite episodes deal focus on Superman.  I think that is because Justice League from season 2 on had such a perfect grasp on the character and really struggled with a lot of the issues surrounding the powerful and beloved hero.  This two-parter proves why Clark Kent is Superman.  Without a red son in a post-apocalyptic he still manages to be a hero without power.  Relying solely on his resourcefulness.  Seeing the League react to his death is great for illustrating the strong team dynamic.  Especially Batman in denial and Wonder Woman in anger.  Also this features the return of Brad Garrett's Lobo who tries to force the League to make him Superman's replacement.  I understand that Lobo is too strong of a character for a team show, but really wish he made more appearances.

4. Wild Cards
The funniest Justice League episode, but also in some ways one of its darkest.  This is the last appearance of Mark Hamill's Joker, which is my favorite interpretation of the character (although John DiMaggio's portrayal in Under the Red Hood is absolutely terrifying).  The Joker is in real fine form here as he works great comedically and as a scheming villain.  I really like when characters like the Joker get in over their head.  You know they won't win but you think they might.  This was banned on TV after its initial airing, so I saw it for the first time on DVD years after it aired but it is one of my favorites.

3. Starcrossed
The plot twists, the scale, the characterization.  This show was capable of anything.  Hawkgirl did not start off as a popular character.  She replaced Aquaman in the main lineup and did not have a huge fanbase from the comics.  But the show really had a strong grasp on her.  The volatile warrior from another planet had great relationships with the team, especially Flash and Lantern.  There was a mystery surrounding the character that you never realized until things went down in the finale of the first series.

Hawkgirl makes some moral comprises while continuing to be a sympathetic character.  Her betrayals and loyalties create some incredible moral dilemmas for the team and the audience that are difficult to deal with.  The Thanagarian invasion was not just an adventure the heroes had, it changed everything.  All of the characters were developed in this tightly plotted, exciting three-parter.

2. Question Authority/Flashpoint/Panic in the Sky/Divided We Fall
I couldn't pick just one episode.  The Cadmus arc makes up most of the episodes of the first season of JLU, but four of the last episodes of the season are a perfectly escalating story arc.  The Question and Amanda Waller both come close to stealing the show and Lex Luthor has never been better.  Flash, Green Arrow, Supergirl and Batman all have great moments.  And the struggles and worries about Superman are a practical evolution of the story.  The reveal of the true big bad at the end of Panic in the Sky and the surprising way in which he is defeated in Divided We Fall are terrific surprises.  I cannot remember being more excited while watching a TV show.  Every week during these episodes something changed and I didn't know what would happen.

1. A Better World
This is the best superhero fiction can be.  Comics, movies, cartoons, whatever: this two-parter is my all time favorite look at superheroes.  It provides an honest view of the negative implications of super powers and vigilantism without losing the idealism of the DC universe.  Seeing Superman as a dictator, the importance of Flash to the team and especially Batman fighting his alternate self are all fascinating.  Justice Lords Batman convinces our Batman to change by arguing they've created a world where, "no eight year old kid will ever lose his parents to some punk with a gun."  Just completely fascinating.


  1. My favorite show. My favorites in unlimited are Double Date, Fearful Symmetry, Great Brain Robbery, and Divided we Fall.
    My favorites for JL are Twilight and Hereafter. I have watched nearly every episode to death.